Belfast Telegraph

IRA remarks offer nothing positive, says victim's sister

By Allan Preston

The sister of a Belfast woman murdered by the IRA said Michelle O'Neill has "put up a wall" to unionists in a new video interview on the Sinn Fein website.

Ann Travers' sister Mary was shot dead by an IRA gang in 1984 as she walked home from Mass in south Belfast.

It's believed the terror group was targeting her father, a judge.

Last week Ms Travers was critical of Martin McGuinness, saying that while he spoke of reconciliation, he had failed to address victims of IRA violence such as her sister.

Yesterday in a video interview posted on the Sinn Fein website, Ms O'Neill said she wanted to follow Mr McGuinness' example and reach out to unionists.

However, Ms Travers said that after Ms O'Neill made several references to IRA members who lost their lives she believed it "doesn't give a positive outlook of a new leader who is going to bring change".

During the video interview Ms O'Neill spoke of her childhood in Clonoe, Co Tyrone and how two incidents involving the death of IRA men had a profound impact on her.

During the Clonoe ambush of 1992, special forces had opened fire on a Provisional IRA unit at a graveyard in the village, after they had themselves launched a heavy machine gun attack at an RUC station in Coalisland. Four IRA members were killed while two escaped.

She also referenced the Loughgall ambush of 1987 which saw eight IRA members killed as they were attacking the village RUC base.

Ms O'Neill called both incidents "a harrowing time for our local community".

"For me that strengthened my resolve, it made me want to go out and make sure that I was active and did everything I could to deliver a united Ireland. For republicans across Tyrone, they've always been active and are fully behind the peace process," she said.

After watching the interview, Ms Travers said: "I certainly don't think she's done herself any favours with unionists or victims of IRA terrorism starting off like that.

"That will appeal to her own core support and voters, but certainly for victims of IRA violence she has immediately put up a wall whether she realises it or not.

"She spoke about the IRA unit that was killed, but earlier that night they attacked a police station. How does she think that's going to make RUC widows or other family members of officers who were killed feel?

"It doesn't give me hope as the reason for her joining Sinn Fein was her support for the IRA gangs who were going out to murder."

Ms Travers added that she believed any life criminally taken by republican, loyalist or state forces had to be condemned.

"That's an acknowledgment I'd like to see from Sinn Fein," she said.

Yesterday the DUP responded to the new appointment by posting a picture on social media of Ms O'Neill placed inside Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' coat pocket with the words "New Deputy. Same problem".

The Alliance Party leader Naomi Long quickly hit back at the post saying: "Pretty sexist and misogynistic suggesting Michelle O'Neill isn't a serious leader. The DUP leader can't be happy with that as a party response surely?"

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